19 Oct 22

Heinz von Eckartsberg appointed to Urban Design Forum Committee

Heinz von Eckartsberg

Woods Bagot’s Urban Design Leader (AU,NZ) Heinz von Eckartsberg has been appointed Secretary of the Urban Design Forum (UDF) Committee: a non-profit organisation dedicated to shaping our cities in the public’s interest.

Since 1986, when it was a simply a Melbourne sidewalk gathering of enthusiasts, UDF has advocated for urban design as a determinant of citizen wellbeing. Now formalised, UDF has become a socio-political force, a network of creatives committed to championing the functionality and quality of our cities and towns.

“In my experience, the best cities are those who respond to the swell of change called for by its citizens,” says Heinz von Eckartsberg, newly appointed Secretary of UDF’s 2022/23 committee.

“Sometimes this can involve creating access to great amenity for communities traditionally marginalized, other times it can involve erasure of elements that disrespect or hurt certain groups.”

“Most critical for a successful city is ensuring that people feel that they have a meaningful place within it. Ensuring that your city is true reflection of its residents is what it means to be an active citizen rather than a passive observer.”

Heinz von Eckartsberg appointed to Urban Design Forum Committee
Heinz von Eckartsberg appointed to Urban Design Forum Committee

Prior to his move to Australia, the American-born and raised von Eckartsberg was a senior urban designer at Studio Gang Architects in Chicago. There, he steered vast city-scale redevelopment schemes including the Memphis Riverfront Concept that overhauls six miles of the city’s Mississippi riverfront into bustling public spaces to uplift Memphis for future generations. Moving to Melbourne in 2012, he held key urban design roles with Hassell, Grimshaw and SJB Urban, before taking up the newly created position of Urban Design Leader at Woods Bagot in 2021.  

“One thing I’ve observed in working on projects in Australia and globally is that inequity is built into the blocks,” says von Eckartsberg.

“Rather than being neutral ground, cities are reminders of who they were geared to as they grew – often white, mostly men, usually rich – these narratives are important reminders that equity is not inherent. “

Von Eckartsberg says that the UDF pays heed to these narratives and collectively lobbies for change.

“It is far too easy to fall into an isolating helplessness when looking at the issues ahead,” he explains.

Sketches and diagrams by Heinz von Eckartsberg

“Urban development can be a contributor to climate change, social inequity and environment destruction or it can be a solution. The Urban Design Forum harnesses a collective impetus for the latter and turns that into tangible action.”

To this end, throughout the year, the UDF hosts public conversations to generate dialogue and debate, as part of inspiring design festivals and programs.

For this year’s UDF committee leadership, von Eckartsberg is joined by President Leanne Hodyl, founder of research and urban design consultancy Hodyl & Co, Vice-President Katherine Sundermann, Director at MGS Architects, and Treasurer Carlos Reyes, Senior Urban Designer at Hodyl & Co.

The committee members are Andy Fergus, David Morison, Adelise Pearson, Audrey Leonore Lopez, Gunali Ajgaonkar and Alice Fowler.

Read more about the work of the UDF here.


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